Updated Sun, Nov 24, 2013 1:20 pm
When the Ohio women’s golf team concluded its final round at the Rocket Classic on Oct. 15, the final stroke of a pencil across the final box of the team’s scorecard signaled the end of the fall season. After their last shot in Toledo that Tuesday, the Bobcats had nothing on their schedule for months. It turns out, however, that the four-month break seen on the team’s official calendar isn’t much of a break at all.
The Ohio golf teams’ schedules are unique compared to other sports because they have an in-season off season, so to say, separating fall play from play in the spring. During that lull over the winter months, the women’s golf team does plenty to keep busy and well-conditioned for when the ladies tee off again in late February.
“We try to give [our players] a little bit of recovery time, you know, a couple weeks to get their head clear and catch up with school, but you have to stay in the game,” Ohio head coach Kelly Ovington said. “You have to stay focused just on golf.”
The players on the women’s golf team take advantage of every of opportunity they get to maintain that focus.
Despite colder, less traditional golfing temperatures, the women will often still golf outside whenever they get the chance. If the thermometer reads lower than 40 degrees or so, they will then head indoors and drive the ball to further help keep rust from forming on their clubs and in their mechanics.
Naturally, the work these teammates put in with one another often gets competitive, but at the hands of Ovington, that vying fire that burns deep within these student athletes is given some organization.
“We have a fall match play within the team, where I will seed them and they set up the matches and then play throughout the winner,” Ovington said. “It gets pretty competitive. There’s some smack-talk going on, I’m sure.”
“We all take it pretty seriously,” added Kristen Helmsdoerfer, a senior on Ohio’s women’s golf team. “We don’t get that many opportunities to do match play, and I personally love match play, because it tests different strengths and aspects of your game.”
Creating a combative match play environment now is very beneficial to the team, according to Ovington, because its first tournament back from its break is a match play event in Lakewood Ranch, Fla. Not all of their training takes place on the course, though. In fact, a lot of the work the women’s golf team commits to during their mid-season break takes place right between the ears.
“We do a lot of mental exercises, Ovington said. “We try to work with various sports psychologists. They’ll have webinars with some of the sports psychologists… and we do these kind of ‘think games.’”
These “think games” Ovington referred to take place through a website that will challenge players to remain focused and alert during the course of various tasks and scenarios presented to them. This might sound a bit stressful to some, but Helmsdoerfer takes these challenges in stride.
“I think it’s been very helpful, because it helps you see what other kind of philosophies are out there and then you can pick and choose your own from there,” Helmsdoerfer said.
The team’s unorthodox training styles don’t just stop in front of computer screens. Ovington has also found a way to utilize a more “traditional” means of education to keep her players’ minds engulfed in golf.
“They have book assignments over the Christmas break,” Ovington said. “They read a book, maybe a golf-specific book, whether it’s a book about the mental side of golf or just a fun golf book or some kind of book that just keeps them engaged in golf.”
When Ovington said, “You just have to stay focused on golf,” she meant it. Between the time spent actually on the greens and the time spent with their noses in a book, it would be hard for the players not be as “engaged” in the game as Ovington would like.
Perhaps what is even more surprising than NCAA Division I athletes being given reading tasks by a coach over school breaks is the positive attitude towards the assignments like the one Helmsdoerfer has.
“I’ll actually read a couple different sports psychology books, so for me, I really enjoy the activity,” Helmsdoerfer said. “I think all the girls really do benefit from it.”
The commitment the players of the women’s golf team make to keep their sport active in both their mind and body is something to behold. Whether it’s one-on-one challenges with one another on the course, or thumbing their way through the pages of books or across keyboards, the ladies of the Green and White work to keep their minds focused on the greens of a golf course, even during time considered by others to be “just a break.”